Because of him, Ne-Yo is taking legal action. The rising R&B star has filed a lawsuit claiming he was booted off R. Kelly’s tour because fans and critics alike preferred Ne-Yo’s act to the headliner.
Instead of suing Kelly, however, Ne-Yo (real name: Shaffer Chimere Smith) and his reps at Compound Touring Inc. are targeting the tour promoter, Georgia-based Rowe Entertainment. In their complaint, filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, the “So Sick” singer and his handlers accuse Rowe of breaching Ne-Yo’s touring contract and violating his right of publicity by firing the 25-year-old from Kelly’s Double Up tour just before Thanksgiving.
The North American jaunt, in support of Kelly’s album of the same name, also featured Keyshia Cole and J. Holiday on the bill.
Per legal papers, the Los Angeles-headquartered Compound Touring, which was responsible for arranging Ne-Yo’s participation, claims it lost major moolah after Ne-Yo was given the heave-ho after performing at just two of the concerts.
“[Compound spent] substantial monies in preparation for the tour and turned down other touring and performance opportunities for Smith in reliance on Rowe’s agreement that Smith would perform on the tour,” the suit states.
Following the abrupt dumping, Kelly’s camp explained away Ne-Yo’s dismissal as a “contractual issue” between him and the promoter, saying Kelly played no part in the decision.
Court papers, however, dispute that assertion, suggesting instead that Kelly’s reps didn’t like what they were hearing after the first reviews were in.
“Plaintiffs…allege…that an unknown representative of R. Kelly urged Rowe to terminate Smith from the tour given the audience and critics’ more favorable reaction to Smith than the reaction to R. Kelly,” the suit says.
Ne-Yo expressed a similar sentiment following his booting, telling BET, “People were talking more about my set than [Kelly’s], and I don’t think he liked that too much.”
Ne-Yo’s attorney, Zachary Rothenberg, declined to comment; as did Kelly’s publicist, Allan Mayer, noting his client was not named in the suit. Reps for Rowe were not immediately available.
Ne-Yo and Compound Touring are seeking unspecified damages.
The lawsuit claims the entertainer expected to earn $785,000 for a 25-concert swing that got underway Nov. 14. He pocketed $50,000 for his two-gig effort.
The Double Up tour is expected to wrap up Jan. 13 in Hampton, Virginia.
Kelly, 40, is no stranger to losing tourmates. Kelly and Jay-Z’s Best of Both Worlds tour infamously flamed out amid animosity between the headliners.
While Kelly won’t have to go to court to defend Ne-Yo’s allegations, he does have a looming trial in his long-delayed child-pornography case after a Chicago judge recently set a May 9 start date.